Sewer rates, property taxes up in 2010 city budget

Published on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 by Tara Nelson

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Blaine residents can expect higher sewer rates, higher property taxes and cuts in city staff if the details of the proposed 2010 city budget are approved next month.

Overall, the proposed general fund budget is approximately $4.6 million, 2.2 percent less than the 2009 budget, said Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic.

 “We feel like we’ve gone through this very carefully and put together a very bare bones budget,” Tomsic said.

“Our hope is we’ll see a recovery over the next year and that some of our revenue streams that have diminished will begin to come back. If not, it’s going to be more difficult each year.”

The proposed budget would increase property taxes by 1 percent and generate an additional $9,200 a year to the city’s general fund and street fund.

Rates for wastewater will jump by about 11.2 percent, an approximate $8 increase for homeowners. Public works
director Steve Banham said the city’s sewer rates were scheduled to increase each year to help pay for the new water reclamation facility, Lighthouse Point, but a recent decision by the Blaine City Council to eliminate connection fees forced the city to increase those rates even more.

Rates for low-income seniors and disabled residents will remain the same, he said.

Tomsic said anticipated continued decreases in local sales tax, development permits and other revenue streams forced officals to make cutbacks and reduce overall spending. As a result, the city made revisions to the 2009 budget last month when an economic report found that all revenue sources were less than predicted.

The biggest drop was in the city’s real estate excise tax, which, as of September, was only 35 percent of what was forecast in the 2009 budget with the city collecting only $108,000 of the estimated $226,875.

The city’s hotel and motel tax was another big loser with only $110,000 collected to date from last year’s total $154,000.

“Those numbers were overestimated in (the 2009) budget and we’ve had to bring those numbers more in line with reality,” he said. “It's a substantial decrease but those are the numbers we're seeing currently.”

When asked about how the city’s removal of impact and connection fees would impact general fund budget, Tomsic said it would not be significant.

“We’re not anticipating a lot of growth – either business or residential – in the next year,” he said. “If there were a lot of growth, then we would be forgoing those impact fees but as it is we’re not going to forgo a great deal of money.”

“We’ve also got some money in reserves to pay for parks for the 2010 year,” he said. “I could see the city having
some impacts in the longer term, like over the next five years, but just in the next year, we won’t see a huge impact.”

The council is scheduled to approve the budget during a regular session December 14.